Friday, December 26, 2008

Here in the Cave

© 2008 Oona McOuat

Here in the cave, it is cozy. A fire burns in the stove, and night enfolds me like a pair of flannel pajamas. Here in the cave, it is silent. The phone does not ring, the traffic stops. Mind chatter gives way to being and breath. Here in the cave, it is still. I am alone. I sink into this space of solitude and watch sorrow and loneliness surface and settle and I listen to their story. Here in the cave, it is dark. But there are windows, and if I pull back the curtains a perfect, tiny crescent moon fills me with her light.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert
Deep, deep, deep in the heart of December,
Deep deep, deep in the womb of the mother,

Deep, deep, deep where there is no other

Song but the song of my soul…

Solstice Chant © Anne Bearheart

Last Week's "Cosmic Smile" captured by Leigh Hilbert
Advent. The dictionary says that beyond being the season before Christmas, it is the arrival of an important person or thing….I stop to reflect. Is this perhaps the downfall of modern humanity? We focus on what might happen, what will happen, what we will to happen, and miss the moment? 

So, is all this frenzy of Christmas feasting and frolicking, this attachment to holiday tradition, this shopping and baking, decorating, and dragging our sniffling and sun-starved bodies from one potluck or choral event to another an authentic celebration of the season? Some of it may be, but much of it may also be a way of avoiding the gift of the cave - the deep, dark, quiet of these short days and long, velvet, star-studded nights.
Photo by Leigh Hilbert
Here in the north country, the earth grows still, as if hollowing out a cradle for the rebirth of the light. I love the Winter Solstice. I love Christmas. And I know if I don't sink into the cave, I will neurotically or habitually fill the emptiness, and miss the richest gifts this period of advent has to offer.

Yes, like all of you no doubt, I have been busy. This was a magic autumn spent recording with Daryl Chonka, a musical soul brother who has helped me create a beautiful thing. (I will let you know when it is ready.) The most wondrous part?  All of this was done within walking distance from my home:  the album photo shoot, the recording, the mixing, the mastering. Come on, I'll take you there….

Photo by Kmax
Walk to the top of the hilly vineyard, past the lambs who are almost full grown and no longer scurry away when you pass. Climb over the neighbor's fence. Be careful not to tear your pants. Take the trail that crosses the still dry creek. (It's been such a warm, atypical fall here.) Follow the path of soggy, russet maple leaves. Notice the sprouts covering the forest floor and the young nettles springing up as if it is spring. Wonder if one day soon the climate here will rival that of Hawaii… Pass the copse of fir trees and inhale their good, green scent. Stop when a flock of skittish starlings lights on the overhead branches and bathes you with their chatter.

Walk through the same sword ferns that filled the ohia forest on your tropical island home. Jump over the birch tree that fell in a recent windstorm. Do not take your usual route up the mountain but instead head down into the valley. Enter the yellowing blackberry thicket. Step out onto the reddish dirt road and you have arrived at the studio, the magic place where music is birthed and captured and then sent out to the world.

(And here is the luminous cast of characters who have joined me in this sonic cave...)

Jami Sieber on the cello
Desmond on vocals

Richard Lee on woodwinds

James Mujuru on vocals

Chris Bertin on Percussion - this is his handmade Mother Drum

Producer, engineer and musician extraordinaire Daryl Chonka & Chris jam on the didg

Zavallennahh Rokeby-Thomas on violin
Mike Fox on Violin

Corbin Keep on cello

Eventually, soon, this wonderful music must leave the safe, dark womb of the studio and be released to the world. How, you might ask? Much of it from my home computer.

The internet has changed everything. Everything. I am beginning to wonder if it is irrevocably changing me. Yes, it creates more empathy, a sense of global connectedness. It teaches me to communicate with few words and big presence and to use instant discernment and intuition when assessing someone or something I stumble upon there. But when I go on the net I am opening an energetic door that invites all kinds of things to come to its threshold. I wonder how much of this is actually entering me. There is something very intimate about sitting down with my computer.

As I develop my Myspace site, I am discovering the internet allows instant friendships to form with hundreds of people most of whom I'll never meet. We are all on a first name basis. Yes, there is connection - sometimes it stays on the surface, sometime it runs quite deep. Each friendship is like an energy thread that reaches out from my psyche. How many of these can I support before I become diluted? This way of connecting creates a speedy sort of mind buzz, a heavy-headed eye burn that must be counterpointed with walking in the woods, or touch, or having a bath, in order to keep me in my body. And yet it is addictive. The flickering, seductive screen keeps the dark away.

Just when I feel I am stretched to the end of my cyber-networking capacity, I am told about Twitter - the new way to make your mark in the music world. Three times a day, I am encouraged to give short reports about where I am and what I am doing. I can text messages from my cell phone. (What cell phone?) I can invite people to "follow" me and I can "follow" them, which means we can check our email a hundred times a day and voyeuristically discover what we're all having for breakfast.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert

Supporters of this site say it will fend away the paparazzi (shucks - I was kind of getting fond of them) as you are openly sharing the juicy tidbits that keep your fans hooked. They say it is a great way to make lasting connections, and that you can quickly weed out those who are authentic from those who are not, just by reading their two line "blogs"…

And I wonder - would an authentic artist be playing her harp, musing in the woods, sitting and writing words that flow from her heart, or would she be calculating that if she tells the world she is going to drive to town to buy some light bulbs she will somehow endear herself to them and sell more CDs? Don't most artists already find it challenging enough to bridge their feelings and perceptions with the world and/or distinguish the world from their feelings and perceptions without making their very lives a consumable piece of art? I can't do it. I cannot trade real relationship and true communion for cyber speak. Yes, this new way of recording and selling music is all computer-based, and yet I cannot allow the computer to become the center of my universe. I must balance the disembodied communication and fuzzy connection to the physical world it fosters with the visceral, the firm.

Photo by Leigh Hilbert
So yes, the cave is a little harder to get to than it was 10 years ago before the onslaught of the World Wide Web. (Spell-check likes to capitalize this.) Even for someone who spends most of her waking days (and sleeping nights) in a tiny cottage on a small island, without company or television, heating with wood, and drinking and washing with well water…

What then must I do to return to the cave of myself? Stop. Unplug the computer. Turn out the lights. Light a candle. Sit in the dark and mourn my losses, count my blessings, envision what I want my life and the world to be like. Resist the temptation to fill time, spend time, spend money, eat snacks, numb out. Be wild. Get outdoors. Get sweaty, muddy, real. Allow things to die without immediately trying to fill the space that's left behind.

This advent, I am opening to the adventitious - that which comes from outside in an accidental sort of way. Some might call this magic. Some might say nothing happens by chance, that it is here in the cave of deep self, as we sit and strip down to bare bones and commune with the Mystery, that we call the unexpected forth. Here in the cave, we make space for great miracles;  we build a darkly rooted foundation for the great tree of Light to come.

Photo by Stocks Photographs

Here in the cave, alone and yet together, we are dreaming the dark. We are dreaming a balanced, loving world into form. May this season of dying and rebirth bring you peace.

Photo by Kmax

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